Archive for May, 2019

Michelangelo’s “Cupid” to Remain at the Met for Another Decade

May 24, 2019

Detail, “Cupid,” Michelangelo Buonarroti, ca. 1490, photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that the loan agreement for Michelangelo’s “Cupid” has been renewed. The scupture has been on loan to the Met by the French Embassy since 2009. With the renewed agreement, visitors to the Met will be able to see the scupture on view for another ten years.

“Cupid” is believe to be one of the earliest known sculptures by Michelangelo, completed in about 1490 when the artist was around 15 years old.

The sculpture has unexpected history.  Both the attribution to Michelangelo and the identity of its subject were lost over time.  “Cupid” is probably not a cupid at all; he has never had wings.  In around 1556 he was identified as Apollo.  Whether Apollo was the intended subject is not quite clear, but the identifcation was made during Michelanglo’s lifetime, which gives it some degree of credibility.  Yet, a hundred years later, in 1650, the sculpture was moved to the Villa Borghese in Rome and renamed “Cupid.”

When offered for auction in about 1902 the sculpture was still recognized as the work of Michelangelo, but then attribution was lost or forgotten.  Infamous architect Stanford White eventually purchased it and installed it as a decorative feature of a Fifth Avenue mansion in New York, apparently not realizing it was a Michelangelo. That building is now the location of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, which owns the sculpture.

Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, said that “Michelangelo’s Cupid embodies a beautiful relationship between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and France.”  Max Hollein, the Director of the Met since just last year, said that Michelangelo’s Cupid “emits an emotional and intellectual charge, and it is an honor to present this stunning sculpture to our millions of visitors. We are incredibly grateful to the French Embassy for allowing this historic work to continue to grace our galleries.”

Michelangelo’s Cupid can be viewed in room 503 of the European Sculptural and Decorative Arts gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564.

Cupid ca. 1490, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Press release of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cultural services of the French Embassy in the United States, May 24, 2019.


The Moral Commitment to Return Artwork Wrongfully Taken By the Nazi Regime

May 1, 2019




The painting at issue, as shown on the collections pages of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum.


The moral commitment to return an impressionist painting sold under coercion was undermined by the law of Spain, according to a report by the Art Newspaper. The painting at issue, Camille Pissarro’s Rue St. Honoré of 1897, was forcibly sold by the original Jewish owner for a mere $360 so that she could obtain an exit visa to escape Nazi Germany.

The 1976 sale of the painting in New York to Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza raised “numerous red flags” said the judge in the case. Nonetheless, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Spanish law applied.  According to the decision, Spanish law requires that the buyer, Thyssen-Bornemisza, had to have “actual knowledge” of the earlier wrongful acts to effectively nullify the current ownership. The court did not find that there was actual knowledge of the earlier coerced sale, and therefore decided that the painting is owned by the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum of Spain.

Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, according to the museum’s website, originally consisted of “Europe’s largest private art collection.” The collection was purchased by the government of Spain and moved to Madrid in 1992. The painting was apparently purchased by Spain in either 1992 or 1993 from Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Although Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum already issued a “refusal to return the painting,” the judge’s statement implies that the right thing for the museum to do would be to return the painting to the heirs of Lilly Cassirer Neubauer. Given the prior refusal, this seems doubtful.

Spain is a signatory to the international commitment to return Nazi looted artwork, known as the Washington Principles. However, Artnet reports that Spain is one of a handful of countries that has “made the least effort towards upholding the Washington Principles and returning looted works.” The question is whether Spain will step up now and honor its “moral commitments” or not.


The Art Newspaper | Laura Gilbert May 1, 2019.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional

Washington Conference Principles on Nazi Confiscated Art, 1998, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State

It’s Been 20 Years Since the Creation of the ‘Washington Principles’ to Return Nazi-Looted Art, Artnet | Sara Cascone, Nov. 27, 2018